Bring back tours of old

2007-08-24 11:18

JJ Harmse

It happened under the noses of the International Rugby Board so hopefully they were aware of the significance of the Springboks clash against Connacht in lovely Galway on Tuesday.

The Bok performance apart, rugby was the huge winner all the way and left everyone with the feeling of wanting more of the same, in some way or another.

Bok coach Jake White got to see a different side to some of the players he's stuck with for years and the people of Galway, who came in their thousands to fill the ground to capacity, saw the Springboks play their local province.

Bok captain on the day, Bob Skinstad, admitted afterwards that the next generation of professional players would need this kind of trip in order to progress as a true Springbok.

Connacht coach Michael Bradley who is trying to build something special on the Irish west coast despite some huge odds against him, would certainly relish similar matches in the future.

All agreed on one thing; the need to bring back the tours of old.

The sooner, the better.

Not only do the respective unions like South Africa, New Zealand and Australia need to break more ground in other parts of the world, bar the well-traveled Tri-Nations road, tours would rejuvenate the game at club level in many parts of the world.

All-round person

They would also introduce young professional players to a different mindset and provide them an opportunity to learn more about life in another country, thus developing a more all-round person.

And that is exactly what we want our Springboks to be, all-round personalities with a cultural background, right?

The re-introduction of tours will do that.

One realises the benefits of the end of year sorties to Twickenham and Murrayfield and the need for valuable pounds to flow into the South African rugby coffers, but are we not also paying a terrible price in that profit?

So instead of having three Tests against England, Wales and Scotland, let us rather tour just two of those countries and play some midweek games as well.

Nothing wrong with the Boks playing Llanelli or Neath is there?

Or why not take on Newcastle or Connacht for that matter.

And don't get me started on Argentina.

We all know how the infamous battle of Tucuman laid the foundation for a Springbok team that won the Rugby World Cup not too long afterwards.

Crowd puller

Add Mendoza and Rosario to the education of a young prospect and you WILL find sooner rather than later if that individual has what it takes.

Tours into South Africa could also be a huge crowd puller.

There is no doubt that the platteland is still the traditional breeding ground of rugby talent in the country and tours to the likes of Upington, Cradock or Nelspruit will create even more awareness of the game in those regions.

One just had to see the huge crowds in Polokwane and Witrivier this year when Samoa toured the country in early January.

Fans flocked to see an international team playing in their neighbourhood.

From a national perspective, it will be a great learning curve as well.

As the match against Connacht showed how uncomfortable some of the Springboks were playing in unfamiliar and sometimes hostile territory, they will all be better players for it.

And rugby in Connacht will take a while to live down the day when the men in black almost caused an upset in beating the mighty Springboks.

Imagine if we go on and win the World Cup, how many twists to that story there will be in the next couple of seasons!

Sharing experiences

But that is exactly what makes the game of rugby a great one.

The culture of sharing experiences, of forging friendships and learning to trust the guy next to you has been of the great attributes of the sport.

Nights like the one we had in Galway should not be in vain.

I just hope that the IRB, which consists of the representatives of the likes or South Africa and Ireland, apply their mind when they have their big conference on the state of the game in a couple of months.

Rugby needs international tours now more than ever.

The seven-year itch in its marriage with professional rugby has turned into something more serious.

Many fans are divorcing themselves from the game.

We need to get the romance back into rugby.

Alternatives

In Galway, I saw a lot of the emotion and love for the game and one can only hope that the right decisions will be taken about the future of the game.

Touring and playing midweek games in smaller locations is one of those alternatives available to rugby bosses.

Let us hope they realise that.

We need to take the game to everybody in the world, not keep it among a select few.

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